Anton versus the Bush-Master
My days out at POPPYS (People of Peru Project Youth Services) house are, on average, hectic. As a nurse, I try to keep my skills up whenever I can. Practicing nursing down here in Iquitos has been extremely different to what I am used to. I have had little to no pediatric experience, and even less in the gynecological areas. These two would be my most encountered areas for practicing nursing at POPPYS house. Every once in a while I had the privilege of sticking Aaron, Kelly, or Casey to an IV due to severe dehydration. It was fun and exciting to know I could still puncture the vein at just the right angle and see the stunning crimson fluid of life flow through the needle catheter. I know it’s a strange kind of satisfaction only a nurse can take pleasure in. Regardless, I enjoy having to practice nursing skills no matter what area.
One afternoon, a neighbor girl came by to ask for help. I was in the middle of dealing with the household schedule and at my day’s rush hour. I quickly asked how emergent it was. She said her brother had been bit by a snake several days ago. I felt like pulling my hair out. I told her I would be by her house as soon as I could. It wasn’t until around 8pm that I remembered about my neighbor’s dilemma. The village was announcing that there had been a snake bite victim and needed financial aid to purchase medical supplies. As the village gathered monies for this family, I grabbed my backpack full of supplies and brought my most valuable assistant Casey. We entered the hut where the smell of moldy wood and the musty clay floor seemed to suffocate me. My soon-to-be patient lay on wooden planks on the floor. The room was dimly lit by a kerosene lamp and filled with every relative this young man had.
His name is Anton and is 20 years old. Anton had been 40 kilometers away from Iquitos working near a river cultivating land. He along with his brother in law, were in high brush hacking away with their machetes. A very large aggressive Bushmaster came out and struck Anton twice in the upper thigh. His wife and brother in-law bravely killed the snake.
Anton waited 14 days before returning home to Iquitos, and now his leg was swollen and infected. Out of ignorance and fear of what the doctors would tell him or do at the hospital, he had not gone to receive medical attention. Now he was in unbearable pain, a high fever, and a severely swollen leg. Anton’s wife and mother had placed hot leaves around the wound. He had sunken eyes and was pale as a sheet, as beads of sweat dripped off his face. I examined his leg and noticed that from mid-calve all the way up to his lower buttocks area was swollen and hot.
The fang marks left behind were a good three inches apart, indicating the snake was quite large. The puncture holes had thick hardened pus poking through. I slapped on two pairs of gloves and quickly got to work. There were about five women holding flash lights to aid in this process. I removed the leaves placed around puncture sites and lightly tugged at what seemed like pus formed corks. Once I had removed the thick, odorous matter from the holes, a fountain of fluid gushed out. It was a geyser of clotted blood and green pus. My face said it all. My gloves quickly soaked through and I was soon out of gauze. Casey had to return home and retrieve more supplies. It was approximately one liter of fluid that I was able to express out of those two puncture sites. The planks of wood were soaked through with the foul smelling fluid and there was a puddle forming underneath my work area. The horrid smell of the material and fluid expressed from his leg made me want to gag. Once the fluid drained, his thigh was so emaciated; the muscles could be seen beneath his skin. Throughout this whole time, Anton toughed it out and said not a word. The ooh’s and aah’s that came from the family crowded around attracted the neighbors who herded round about the house.
Anton had not bathed since his incident, and it was apparent. I sent him with antibacterial soap to take a good bath. His brothers and wife had to carry him because he was so weak and could not weight bear on his legs. Following a good bath, I cleansed the area once again and dressed his wound. I knew that with the time that had passed since his snake bite to now he could easily have developed an infection down to the bone. I started him on oral antibiotics and gave him Tylenol for his fever and pain. This was only going to be a temporary fix. I called Mr. Paul and asked him if the organization could sponsor his medical attention. Since the village was only able to raise an equivalent of nine dollars, this would not come close to covering his needs. Mr. Paul quickly agreed and we started the process to get him to the hospital.
It was midnight by now and too late for him to be attended at the hospital. The next morning we arranged for an ambulance pick up and insurance papers to be filled. Anton’s family absolutely refused to have him taken to the hospital. I was livid. It was past the point of caring whether or not Anton would lose his leg, he could lose his life. Making no headway with his mother or brothers, I marched over to his wife. I whipped out my two index fingers from their holsters and gave her a piece of my mind. Anton had a two-year old son. I asked her if she wanted to raise him alone. Then I marched back to Anton and told him this decision was up to him. Did he want to die at home without attempting to receive medical attention? Or go to the hospital where he could be treated for the infection and have a fighting chance. Within minutes he requested to be carried to the back of the ambulance.
I visited Anton almost every day in the hospital. He was started on three different IV antibiotics. The hospital system here in Iquitos requires there to be a family member stay with each patient at all times. These family members are in charge of bringing the patient’s own bedding, food, taking temperatures and administering medications at their appropriate times. Yes, that is a scary thought. However, Anton had a very competent cousin attend to his medical needs when I was unable to visit him.
Anton spent his birthday, Christmas, and New Year’s in the hospital. He shared a room with five other patients. The room reeked of sickness. When I visited Anton, we sang and prayed with him and his fellow roommates. It was several days before he was scheduled for surgery for a debridement of his wound. He was so anemic that he required three blood transfusions. One of which, was so kindly given by one of POPP (People of Peru Project) volunteers C.J. That is a story all of its own that you can read .
Anton’s recovery time in the hospital was a little over four weeks. He had to go through a total of two surgeries to remove the necrotic tissue that lay beneath his wound. After extensive antibiotic treatments and physical therapy to strengthen his leg he was back to working. Anton will be able to support his young family, see his son grow, and someday be a proud grandfather. He was able to have a second chance. Every once and awhile we will cross paths here in the village and Anton is always very grateful for the work People of Peru Project has done. We lived our mission statement of “Caring for children, the relief of human suffering, education for self help, and planting seeds of hope. “
As a volunteer working for POPP am so thankful for the many people who have sacrificed financially to keep this mission functioning; the fate of so many lives is changed daily. This would not be possible without your support, time, and prayer.